Amongst the Oaks of Hondo Canyon Trail

By February 21, 2016 Trails and Tribulations
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We were hoping the recent rainstorm had dumped enough precipitation to awaken the mycelium to fruit along the Hondo Trail in Topanga Canyon this weekend (a very pleasant incline hike that takes hikers from an oak lined canyon eventually up to Eagle Rock in Topanga State Park). To our disappointment the soil and the duff layer were both too dry, any remaining evidence of petrichor long gone. Nevertheless, there were a few choice finds amongst the decomposing coastal live oak bark selfishly guarded by dangerous tendrils of poison oak; a popular abode to native fauna, a closer inspection revealed a beautifully muscular California Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps attenuatus), a Southern Shoulderband snail (Helminthoglypta tudiculata, a rare California endemic species), and a fairy ring of Agaricus spp. which seemed to whisper promises of more rain…and with it, more mycological magic would awaken.

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We spent that late afternoon listening to a chorus of frogs echoing across a creek canyon, above, the hills above brushed golden by the gentle sway of native grasses illuminated by magic hour sunlight, the gnarled sentry of wizened oaks following us as we followed the narrow trails of mule deer. Our time there was short, but the memories imprinted endless.

Man, Dig Those Crazy Los Angeles Postcards

By February 3, 2016 Daily Pontification
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Over at AHBE Lab, landscape architect Gary Lai documents the history and current commuter’s quagmire known as the Los Angeles freeway system. In the process of researching and editing Gary’s piece, I discovered a series of vintage postcards circa 1950s-1960s  showing aerial photographs of LA’s ribbon bow freeway interchanges, accompanied with smarmy vintage era catchlines: “Man, Dig Those Crazy Los Angeles Freeways”, “Dig Those Crazy Freeways’, and finally the succinct, “Dig Those Freeways” (the postcards can additionally be appreciated as snapshots of slang’s progression…or postcard makers cost cutting measures).

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In any case, check out these crazy Los Angeles Freeways below…can you dig?

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The Tiny Tool Shed Backyard Escape Project

By January 5, 2016 Domesticus Insulae

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So pleased Jaime picked my shed project for Design Milk as one of her favorite posts of 2015. Looking toward 2016 I have a great many more ideas for upgrading the space, inside and out (next up – after the rain – is building a small surrounding deck).

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Living, Brutally Honest: Ricardo Bofill’s La Fábrica

By November 23, 2015 Daily Pontification, The Design Drawer

Ricardo Bofill’s La Fábrica is Brutalist architecture of the highest magnitude, a salvaged industrial space turned into a cathedral of the aesthetic. The space is uncompromising in its beauty, with window views evoking the imagination of Magritte, the exterior shoulder strapped with stairways ascending with Escher-like purpose.

“A brutalist vision, with a romantic vision”, embracing the luxury of solitude. There is comfort and pleasure knowing a place like this really exists.

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“The two things that excite me and make me vibrate are the aesthetic feeling … beauty is what moves me, after that intelligence.”

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An Amplified Heart

By September 24, 2015 Daily Pontification
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As an art installation I think these giant wooden acoustic amplifiers inside Estonia’s Pähni Nature Centre are beautiful. I admire their architectural beauty, their studied craftsmanship, and the academic reasoning behind their surprise appearance in the forest. Amplifying nature is an interesting concept, for I find being in its presence already so affecting to both mind and body. These structures manipulate the human propensity for curiosity, forcing occupants to focus on a singular sense with the purpose of listening.

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That said, I believe the aural component of experiencing nature shouldn’t have to be amplified for us to appreciate the world unfolding around us. We already listen to things too loudly everywhere else, with most of our lives bathed in noise, welcomed or uninvited. As in cinema, sometimes the loudest emotional moments are the most silent, and nature provides us opportunities to experience existence without manipulative volume. The opportunity to give up ourselves to a place is offered when you turn the dial from “output” to “input”, occasionally all the way down to “off”…a frightening thought for some, for only then are we left with our own thoughts.

Hilbre tries to capture the feeling of summer on the islands. It follows the lives of the residents and the seasonal visitors, the beauty of the flora and the awe inspiring tides that cut Hilbre off from the mainland.

Those moments of silence interrupted by the lightly layered whispers of trees and grass swaying, the small avalanches of sand streaming down a hill, the chitinous chatter of insects crawling underfoot*, and the distant echoes of birds overhead are all amplified already when we make a conscious effort to give into our sense for more than a heartbeat. When sound can enter beyond the ear and be felt deep within our organs, tickling our skin, and affecting emotions and memory it takes on a whole new property than background noise or an imposition.

Sometimes the sounds of a place can be deafening: the crashing tide along the snaggle-toothed coast of Sea Ranch, the choral howls of monkeys in Costa Rica, a thunderous monsoon having an emotional breakdown in fits and fury of light and sound. Other times it’s only when I silence the chatter in my head I can hear – really hear – the space I’m inhabiting. Even in conversation, so much can be communicated with the pause when words are unnecessary or insufficient. Yet in our nervous state we continually decide to layer in more sound onto our lives? It’s a most perplexing habit of humans to continually speak and seek being spoken to with volume mistaken for meaning.

To learn how to hear the world without it screaming in our ears is a proficiency with lasting effects even after you’ve departed from sweeping sounds of the forest, the stark silence of the desert, or the throaty cool exhale of the sea. What a world…what a lovely world…is revealed when we set out not to seek more, but discover an appreciation for less.

* One of my favorite memories in Costa Rica was Emily and I both leaning our ears to the ground to listen to a streaming line of leaf cutter ants, each hurrying across a network of branches and fallen leaves with purpose, their percussive procession like the tiniest bars of a typewriter writing the story of industry with each footstep.

A Glassell Park Dream Home: The LA Domestead Hits the Market

By September 22, 2015 Daily Pontification, The Design Drawer
All photos: Fritz Haeg

Earlier this year Emily and I made way up into the hills of the 90065 (Glassell Park) to meet with artist, designer, and activist Fritz Haeg about becoming on-site caretakers of his most unique creative compound, the LA Domestead. We were already moving from Silver Lake to the hills of Mt. Washington, but we both felt it was worth our effort to visit, knowing Haeg had created something truly unique in the surrounding hills.

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Although we were much enamored by everything about the multi-level geodesic dome and accompanying verdant edible garden – from its open multi-level layout, dramatic panoramic deck view, winding garden trail, and the potential of an on-site yurt – we sobered up to the fact that the sizable duties required of caretakers wouldn’t offer a realistic opportunity for us to maintain both our professional aspirations. The maintenance of the property and the influx of AirBnb guests on a daily basis were better suited for someone who made the house their primary focus, perhaps with art or writing as a creative supplemental.

With regret we bowed out for consideration.

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Today Haeg sent word he’s putting the home on the market:

“After 15 happy years at home here, from the olden days of Sundown Salon gatherings to Sundown Schoolhouse programs, I’ve decided it’s time to find new hands for this special place as I focus exclusively on the future of the new long term project Salmon Creek Farm in Northern California.”

At $890,000 asking price, I’m a little short in funds to make an offer myself. But I’m hoping someone out there who shares an appreciation for the spirit imbued by the architecture initially designed by Los Angeles architect William King back in 1982 and further expanded by Haeg’s vision throughout the year will continue evolving one of the most unique homes in all of Los Angeles into something uniquely their own.

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The Santo Domingo de Heredia Farmer’s Market

By September 1, 2015 Daily Pontification, Never Taste in Haste
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Proust believed the “real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes”, but in Costa Rica he’d be wrong. In the farmer’s market surrounding the perimeter of Santo Domingo de Heredia’s town center it was our sense of smell which enticed us explore. Situated around three blocks across from the town’s religious centerpiece, Basilica Santo Domingo, the bustling Costa Rican outdoor market didn’t disappoint during our daytime excursion. Led by local resident and ceramic artist, Gerardo Selva Godoy, we were given a tasting tour of the myriad of tropical fruits, vegetables, seafood, legumes, and even fresh roasted coffee grown in the region, alongside an opportunity to observe locals shopping for their weekly provisions. Pineapple, mangoes, plántano, granadilla, mamechinos (aka rambutan), cooked pejibaye (peach palm fruit), and countless other real-world Starburst fruit flavors all mixed into an intoxicating perfume. This urgent scent of ripeness permeating the market is unforgettable, an allure like the scent from the nape of an imaginary jungle fertility goddess’s neck.

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The Costa Rican diet is primarily made up of beans, rice, fish, vegetables, and a wide variety of native and Asian/African tropical fruits mostly eaten whole or in juice form (plantains and the pejibaye are two exceptions, with each enjoyed preferably cooked). Some warned the food in Costa Rica would leave me unimpressed. I’d disagree. There was much to appreciate in the populace’s appreciation for freshness, as was on full display as sellers peeled, poured, chopped, scooped, stirred, and shucked the cornucopia of the region’s bountiful produce. It will be a long time before I forget a market so characterized by its fragrance and punctuated by flavors so dimensionally rich beyond sweet.

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Carsten Nicolai Bausatz Noto Limited Edition 10 LP Set

By August 14, 2015 Daily Pontification, The Design Drawer
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Wow [happening upon this 10-record set]. Whoa! [noting the price]. Sometimes it’s best to appreciate a design simply for the appreciation it exists. I believe this is such a case, with only 100 sets pressed.

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Featuring exclusive music and artwork, this very special limited edition box set has been created in celebration of Carsten Nicolai’s exhibition at The Vinyl Factory space at Brewer Street Car Park, which featured unicolor (2014) and an expanded version of his audio-visual artwork, bausatz noto (1998).

Four Technics SL-1210 turntables are integrated into a table. On each of these turntables lies a specially produced vinyl record with endless grooves, each of which provides the visitor with the opportunity to play several sound loops endlessly. The table functions as an instrument allowing the viewer to layer and superimpose the sound loops and to create perpetually new combinations. The field of interaction is further expanded by the option to substitute the record, to vary its pace and to have it rotate unpredictably through alternating holes. Headphones on the table invite the visitor to attentively follow the emergence of the sound surface.

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A Panic Placated

By June 22, 2015 Daily Pontification, Domesticus Insulae
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Since moving from our one-bedroom Silver Lake apartment to a small Mount Washington home, increased water and energy use has been a concern. So much so I recently dreamt I had left a hose on in the garden, the idea of water being wasted worthy of my subconscious to burden my sleep with sweaty brow panic. Maybe it’s because I’ve taken upon myself to try to keep the surrounding trees alive with a watering stake to directly reach the roots, but every time I turn on the tap I think of the drought and the luxury of clean water on demand, any use connected with a pang of guilt.

Our first water and power bill arrived recently and I was relieved to be informed by Emily that our total use is actually far below the average. In fact, if these figures are correct, we’re only using about 1/4 the average of the typical LA resident. It’s a welcome surprise discovering a small house can be comparatively efficient to an apartment, but those figures underlines our city as a whole has a long way to go in regards to water/energy efficiency (for those seeking some help about recommendations for reducing water use, check out the Home Water-Energy-Climate Calculator)

It helps our place is small, there’s no lawn, we cool the home with natural circulation and ceiling fans instead of AC, I’ve been switching all of our lighting to LED, and we’ve been trying to reuse greywater for the garden as much as possible (bucket by bucket in some instances). Our big project for the next few months – years – will be to convert the front and backyard into a drought tolerant landscape, one which also invites pollinators and stabilizes the surrounding hills from soil erosion. In comparison being water efficient inside seems much simpler than changes and work required outside.

And yet we’re living comfortably, underlining conservation doesn’t mean a life of wanting. It seems all of those “if its yellow, be mellow” and “shower every other day” practices have merit.

The Planetary Paintings of Stella Maria Baer

By June 16, 2015 The Design Drawer
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Stella Maria Baer‘s paintings of celestial bodies exert an undeniable gravitational pull, each watercolor hinting at an opportune coffee stain abstraction envisioned into something more astronomical. Each of her paintings are an evocation of her memories of the Santa Fe high desert where she grew up – “the lines, the color, the space” of each piece tinged by the vast open lands of New Mexico’s wild.

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